Economy Minister Silvio Schembri, who is responsible for the Lands Authority, is finding it very hard to explain how public property in Sa Maison is being used by disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat without any form of title or lease agreement.
A series of parliamentary questions from Nationalist MP Ivan Bartolo, asking for a copy of the lease contract and the terms given by the Lands Authority to Muscat, were not replied to, while Schembri, who is himself involved in a separate controversy over the lease of property, postponing his answer, saying only that “a reply will be given in another parliamentary session”.
Bartolo also asked the minister to explain who authorised the use of this building by Muscat and what terms, if any, were imposed on the former prime minister. Again, Schembri failed to reply and instead claimed that he was still “collecting” the required information.
Before the last elections, an investigation by The Shift had revealed that a building forming part of a larger Transport Malta complex in Sa Maison, Pieta, is being used by the disgraced former prime minister for his personal private work, despite the fact that he does not hold any public office.
The building, which has a private secluded entrance from a narrow dirt road across Pieta’s ‘Vecchia Dogana’, now a restaurant, was refurbished through taxpayers’ funds before being occupied by Muscat.
The Shift is informed that Muscat, who is using the building without any form of title, is not paying any rent for the use of this public building. Also, all utilities and services required for the upkeep of the office, including cleaning and maintenance, are also being paid by taxpayers.
The office has fantastic unobstructed views of the Msida Marina.
Government sources told The Shift that Muscat started occupying this office a few weeks after his forced resignation. Muscat selected the premises himself when he was still in office, and made it part of the severance package he awarded himself during the last Cabinet meeting over which he presided.
Muscat does not hold any public office and is not entitled to make use of any government property. The package given to Muscat also included an unprecedented golden handshake of €120,000. The Office of the Prime Minister has consistently refused to give further details on Muscat’s package.
Last January, the Sa Maison office was searched by the police together with Muscat’s private home in Burmarrad, as part of a continuing corruption probe into the multi-billion privatisation contract of three state hospitals.